• What You Should Know About the Recent Revisions to the Rules of Appellate Procedure
  • October 27, 2017
  • The Advisory Committee on Appellate Rules made several changes to the rules of appellate procedure in 2016 that have affected the way practitioners handle an appeal. Connecticut began e-filing for appeals on January 1, 2016, but initially only for attorneys. Effective August 1, 2016, all self-represented parties1 and attorneys must e-file all appellate documents in all types of cases unless they have filed for an exemption from e-filing. See Practice Book §§ 60-7(a) & 60-8. This new e-filing directive necessitated significant changes to the appellate rules. This article provides a brief overview of the most important changes to the appellate rules and assesses how the e-filing system has fared in its first year. The new rules are intricate and significantly different from previous versions – and though they may seem straightforward, adhering to them requires care.

    At the outset, Practice Book § 60-4 now provides that a “signature” shall be made “upon entry of an attorney’s individual juris number or a self-represented party’s user identification number during the filing transaction . . . .” (Emphasis added.) Do not overlook the word “individual”: Most attorneys use a firm juris number to sign in to e-services, but now must use their individual juris number as a signature when e-filing. Additionally, upon enrolling in E-Services, each self-represented party will receive a user identification number and entry of that number during the electronic filing transaction constitutes the self-represented party’s signature.

    Mandatory e-filing required modifications to several important provisions of the appellate rules. To begin with the prosaic, mandatory e-filing eliminated the requirement that an original and fifteen copies of appellate papers be filed with the appellate clerk. The Advisory Committee also took the opportunity to clarify that a party has fifteen days to correct any noncomplying filing. See Practice Book §§ 62-7. In addition, an appellant no longer needs to certify that a copy of the appeal form generated at the time of filing was delivered to the clerk of the trial court; instead, the appellate clerk will send such notice. See Practice Book § 63-3. Finally, the new rules no longer require an appellant in a noncriminal case to file a draft judgment file with the appellate clerk. Instead, pursuant to Practice Book §§ 6-2 & 6-3, counsel should prepare a draft judgment file, file it with the trial court clerk, and deliver a copy to opposing counsel. Thereafter, the trial court clerk will sign the judgment file, place it in the trial court file, and provide a copy to counsel of record for inclusion in the appellant’s appendix.

    Before mandatory e-filing took effect, we attended an e-filing training session presented by the Judicial Branch support staff. There, we learned what the staff in the Appellate Clerk’s Office views as the most important changes. For example: (1) the new electronic filing requirements will not apply to the filing of appellate briefs, which means that the procedures for submitting briefs electronically and on paper will not change and a brief still is not considered “filed” until the Appellate Clerk’s Office receives a paper copy; and (2) appearing attorneys and self-represented parties are now able to view electronically filed documents and orders online in most cases. Moreover, in response to concerns that the electronic system could become nonoperational, the staff pointed out the safe harbor provision that provides, in relevant part, that in the event the system is nonoperational for thirty consecutive minutes from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. or for any period of time from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the last day for filing a document, the document shall be deemed to be timely filed if received by the clerk’s office on the next business day the electronic filing system is operational. See Practice Book § 63-2.

    Since these changes took effect, our Appellate Practice Group has used the new e-filing system for several of our new and pending appellate matters, including filing new appeals, appellate motions, and petitions for certification to the Supreme Court. Throughout our navigation of appellate e-filing, we have noted several important flaws in the system. For example, the menu from which you designate the motion you are filing is not comprehensive or straightforward and, therefore, appropriately labeling the motion you wish to file can be more difficult with the new e-filing system than it was in the past. In addition, unlike in the trial court, the Appellate Court and Supreme Court don’t have an option for parties to receive email updates when there is activity in the case, such as the filing of a motion or uploading an order. Fortunately, as we have discovered each new issue throughout the course of our appellate matters, we have brought it to the attention of the Appellate Clerk’s office, and they are actively working to solve each problem. In the meantime, the Appellate Practice Group is well-versed in navigating the intricacies of the e-filing system and is an important resource.

    In addition to the new e-filing procedure, the Advisory Committee has adopted further changes that could have significant impact on your appeal. Most significantly, as of November 30, 2016, the docket and assignment of cases are no longer being mailed to counsel of record. See Practice Book §§ 69-1 & 69-3. Instead, this information is available on the judicial branch website. Paper notice will, however, be sent to parties who are exempt from the electronic filing requirements. Along that same vein, effective March 1, 2016, the Supreme and Appellate Courts are no longer issuing paper notice for orders on motions for extension of time. Instead, the information is only available to counsel and the public through the Appellate e-filing system.

    Understanding the new appellate rules is extremely important, as an improperly filed appellate document or missed deadline could have serious repercussions for a case. If you have any questions regarding the Rules of Appellate Procedure or e-filing, please contact a member of the Appellate Practice Group.

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    1. The rules still exclude incarcerated self-represented parties from e-filing.1